The Asus Transformer Mini (T102HA-D4-GR) is an entry-level detachable-hybrid Windows tablet that comes with useful accessories, like a keyboard cover and a pressure-sensitive stylus, that cost extra with some other tablets. It doesn’t have the most powerful processor, but it still gets full marks on usability, screen quality, local storage, and battery life. It’s an ideal second PC to have around the house when you simply want to watch Netflix in bed or quickly edit Office documents while travelling light.
Design and Features
The Transformer Mini T102HA has a magnesium-aluminum alloy and glass body. The matte silver colour of the back panel matches the grey keyboard cover, though a bright orange cover is an option if you want a splash of colour. The system measures 0.5 by 10.2 by 6.7 inches (HWD), so its compact frame won’t be too bulky if you’re stowing it in a small bag or carrying it around the house. It weighs 1.18 pounds alone and 1.75 pounds with the keyboard cover connected. A fabric loop is built into the keyboard cover, so you can clip the included stylus to the tablet.
As with the Microsoft Surface tablets, the T102HA’s removable keyboard cover uses a pogo plug connector to carry its signals to the tablet, and a two-stage magnetic latch tilts the non-backlit keyboard up into a comfortable typing position. The cover is easily removable, but strong enough that you can hold up the tablet by it. The chiclet-style keys have good travel, but they’re tiny (like those on a mid-2000s netbook) and close together, and some are oddly shaped (the right Shift key is tiny and the Fn key is oddly placed by the arrow keys); this makes touch typing less accurate than on the Surface 3 or on larger tablets. It’s good for occasional text entry, but I wouldn’t want to type a novel manuscript on it. The one-piece touchpad works fine for the most part, but there is a bit of lag when you first touch it. A keyboard cover is a bit less stable than the clamshell-style body of the Asus Transformer Book T100HA, our last top pick, but the tablet form factor favours portability over typing comfort in any case.
Like the Surface 3 and its pricier stablemate, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the T102HA has a kickstand that swings out of the back panel. It can stop at a wide range of angles, from straight up to an almost horizontal lean. The kickstand is a rather thin panel of metal, but you can’t knock the usability when you’re watching a video or typing a document into the included copy of Microsoft Office Mobile (which comprises Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote).
The 10.1-inch screen has a 1,280-by-800 resolution, which is common for 10-inch or smaller tablets. The aspect ratio is 16:10, which means that 720p and 1080p videos will have to be scaled down and letterboxed. The screen is bright, rated at 400 units, so you can easily see images in a well-lit room. Colours pop, too, making Netflix or YouTube videos look good. The stereo speakers on the sides of the tablet body are loud and clear; they should fill a medium-size room with music or movie audio.
The included stylus is pressure sensitive, so you can draw lines with varied thicknesses in apps that support the functionality. There are two programmable buttons on the side of the stylus, but no eraser or top shortcut button for invoking OneNote. Because the stylus is more responsive than the touchpad, you may want to keep it handy.
Connectivity options are very good for this price range. There’s a microSD card reader on the top of the tablet, and on the left there are a headset jack, a micro HDMI port, a micro USB port for the charger, and a full-size USB 3.0 port for connecting memory sticks, hard drives, and so on. There is no USB-C port, which isn’t quite a deal-breaker at this point, though it would give the T102HA a measure of future proofing. On the plus side, you can use a phone charger to provide power, but it will take a while if it’s rated for low wattage. Wireless connections are handled via 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, an improvement over older tablets that only offer 802.11g or n.
A round fingerprint sensor on the back panel looks and functions similarly to the Touch ID button on Apple iPhones and the new Apple MacBook Pro; it’s mainly for logging in with Windows Hello. It is a little awkward to reach around the tablet to activate it, but I got used to it quickly.
There’s 4GB of RAM and 128GB of eMMC flash storage on board. That’s much better than inexpensive tablets like the Nextbook Flexx 9 (1GB RAM, 32GB storage) or the InFocus Q Tablet (2GB RAM, 32GB storage). Most tablets in this category only have 2GB of memory, so you’re better set for multitasking with 4GB. I was able to run Word Mobile along with seven tabs in Edge, with two of them playing 1080p HD videos in Netflix and YouTube. Opening more tabs than that started to make things sluggish while loading the new pages, though performance returned to normal once they were up, and both streams ran without stutter in the background. The T102HA is covered by a one-year warranty.
Asus Transformer Book Mini Benchmark ChartThe T102HA is equipped with a quad-core Intel Atom x5-Z8350 processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 400. It returned a decent score of 1,463 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional general performance test, lagging the Asus Transformer Book T100HA (1,698)
The system was at least able to run all three of our multimedia tests. It took 11 minutes, 55 seconds, to complete the Handbrake test and 17:32 on Photoshop, and it returned a score of 97 points on CineBench. None of these tablets would be suitable for multimedia power users who stress out about project deadlines, but they can handle quick edits like reducing red-eye or changing a picture from colour to black and white. Given the single-digit frame rates we saw on our Heaven and Valley tests, 3D gaming is pretty much a no-go on this or any other budget tablet.
Battery life, on the other hand, was exceptional. The T102HA lasted 14 hours, 14 minutes, on our rundown test, one of the longest times we’ve seen. True, the Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 310 beat it by more than 2 hours (16:26), but the third-place finishers (the Asus Transformer Book T100HA and the HP Pavilion x2) only made it to 10 and a half hours. The other tablets lasted around 7 hours (every other tablet listed above). If you need computing time away from the power adapter, the T102HA is the tablet you want.